It is no longer news that despite the obvious challenges that are often synonymous with the Nigerian airlines, some have continued to strive to meet up with the safety standards set up by the global aviation authorities.
One of such global authorities is the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the global clearing house for airlines that have proved themselves in line with the IATA stipulated rules that should position member airlines towards improving their operational safety, integrity and enhance efficiency.
One of the avenues IATA put on ground to make member airlines achieve this is through its Operational Safety Audit (IOSA), which all members particularly those operating international routes must adhere to.
What is IOSA and why is it important?
The IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) certification audit is an internationally recognised and accepted evaluation system designed to assess the operational management and control systems of an airline. IOSA uses internationally recognised audit principles and is designed to conduct audits in a standardised and consistent manner.
Under this policy, airlines are re-evaluated every two years. Registering for IOSA certification and auditing is not mandatory therefore, an airline that does not have IOSA certification may have either failed the IOSA audit or alternatively chosen not to participate. Small regional airlines generally don’t do the IOSA audit purely because of the cost to either have the audit conducted and to implement the likely required changes.
The IATA’s IOSA programme is a key element of the IATA six-point safety strategy, and it has been implemented to achieve two fundamental goals; improve airline operational safety and enhance efficiency. IOSA is now a well consolidated and mature program, with over 1000 audits conducted, and over 353 airlines registered.
The IOSA Audit Report of an airline contains valuable information, not just for other airlines forming or continuing commercial arrangements, but also for states. At the 36th ICAO Assembly, states were encouraged to make use of IOSA Audit results, to assist them in their safety oversight role. All states are encouraged to make use of IOSA audit data to enhance and complement their own safety oversight capabilities.
Moreover, statistics provided has indicated that the total accident rate for IOSA carriers between 2011 and 2016 was 3.3 times lower than the rate for non-IOSA operators. As such, IOSA has become a global standard, recognised well beyond IATA membership. IOSA is the global airlines standard aimed at reducing the number of overlapping audits by using a single standardised system that is accepted worldwide,
Apart from the international recognition member airlines of IATA enjoy, the association maintains an international perspective and provides a unique global voice on behalf of its members. With over 60 offices worldwide, IATA maintains relationships with governments and other industry stakeholders around the world, advocating on behalf of its members on key industry issues.
On its priority list is safety which remains the industry’s top priority and IATA assists its members in continuing to meet industry’s standards therefore, IOSA, which is mandatory for IATA membership, is a critical component of IATA’s safety program.
One other major benefit is IATA’s actively working with the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) to globally harmonise security measures and is working to improve security processes.
Another major benefit of an airline becoming IOSA certified is that it helps protect the airlines funds and reducing costs. IATA’s financial settlement systems are said to be the backbone of the global air transport industry, helping to contain costs, improve cash flow and maximise efficiency while it also helps members to achieve cost reductions related to Air Traffic Control charges, fuel and taxation.
Without doubt, because aviation is a global issue which makes the rules of the game the same everywhere, any airline that is determined to make its mark, including the Nigerian airlines operating on the international routes have no alternative but embrace all these progressive policies like the IATA’s safety audit otherwise known as IOSA.
As Nigerian airlines continue to see the importance of aligning themselves with global safety trends, it is commendable that most of them are beginning to avail themselves to the IATA Safety Operational Audit (IOSA) to enable them compete at par, in terms of safety, with other foreign airlines worldwide
The IOSA Safety Audit, the instrument for measuring safety among airlines of the world for the umpteenth time is said not to be a criteria to end safety related issues or prevent air accidents all over the world, but it is an audit that helps airlines appreciate the importance of airlines operational safety procedures and following the said safety procedures to run an efficient airline. Looking at the economic and safety benefits provided by being IOSA compliant, the question is what is the position of the Nigerian carriers vis-a-vis their compliance status especially those operating foreign routes.
Key players have argued that any Nigerian carrier operating on the international scene have the opportunity to subject itself to the IATA’S IOSA policy for several reasons among which they said will go a long way in protecting them against any exploitation by the foreign countries as IATA will always rise to defend its members.
Other benefits for Nigerian airlines who are IOSA certified are that it increases the integrity of such an airline and subsequently pave way for such airline to form alliances with foreign airlines and technical partners. Though some key players have also argued that many Nigerian airlines which had in the past been on the membership list of IATA’s IOSA had failed woefully and therefore added that being IOSA certified has not really impacted the Nigerian Airlines, but there are other key players who have countered this maintaining that the benefits in the IOSA surpasses the disadvantages if there are and therefore, urged the Nigerian airlines to join the global trend. Prior to now, many Nigerians who had scaled the IOSA audit in the past, but are no more include FirstNation, Virgin Nigeria and Bellview.
Nigerian airlines presently on IOSA
According to latest update from the world airline body, IATA, Nigerian airlines having the IOSA certificate include Arik Air, Aero Contractors, Allied Air and Cargo services, Overland Airways, Medview, Dana Air and Air Peace which has just defended the certificate for the third time having scaled another audit. It would be recalled that the airline set a record when it obtained its first IOSA barely two years into its operations and was, subsequently, inducted as a member of the International Air Transport Association (IATA).
The latest scaling of the IOSA audit by Air Peace airline has however attracted commendations from the leadership of IATA, Alexandre de Juniac who said the Nigerian carriers and others across sub-Saharan African were making progress in air safety.
The data released by IATA on the 2018 safety performance of the commercial airline industry, showed continuing safety improvements over the long term, but an increase in accidents compared to 2017. The report, however, stated that for a third consecutive year, airlines in sub-Saharan Africa experienced zero jet hull losses and zero fatalities in jet operations.
Reacting to the Air Peace scaling of the audit, Managing Director of Centurion Aviation Security and a member of the Aviation Round Table Initiative, Group John Ojikutu (Retired) said there have been many Nigerian airlines that had sack eked the IOSA audit,he however declared that without the IOSA certification, no airline can be admitted into the intercontinental routes.
“So none of those before Air Peace that were once on the intercontinental routes had not successfully scaled through the IOSA audit. Remember that defunct FirstNation too went through IOSA possibly in preparation for intercontinental routes before it was forced to close shop.IOSA certification does not benefit the owners much if they cannot interlink or be in alliances with other members of IATA.”
Air Peace as a pacesetter
Key players have argued that with the ability of Air Peace to scale the audit three consecutive times, the airline has become a selling point for the sector. According to key players,
Air Peace increase in equipment, certification and operation should challenge other carriers to acquire and update their safety certification and operational procedures while service providers should also use it to measure the quality of infrastructure in place and also making projections to ensure seamless service to operators and passengers alike.
The key players are saying that with the recent IOSA certification, it is certain that Air Peace is certainly doing something right with safety procedures as the market leader of the sector which is a plus for the entire se tor. With its deep presence on the IOSA membership, the airline is only preparing further ground to be globally accepted on the international routes the airline will be adding to its operations soonest.
According to Olumide “Unfortunately, for all safety certified carriers after Virgin Nigeria, these certifications has not translated to commercial partnership or increase their financial bottom line .Invariably, it clearly shows that safety certification alone does not attract partnership but the validity of your books, system and processes are also key in enticing other carriers and investors. We also need to tick that box to enjoy the maxim safe and profitable operations.